“This was so much more interesting than just the usual backpacker chit-chat—thanks so much!”

That was the last comment from this young German couple, as we waved goodbye. They were some of the tens of thousands of so-called ‘backpacker’ tourists that visit Australia’s tropical north in the state of Queensland each year. The term refers to those, mostly young people, who come for extended periods of time, usually months on end, camping and/or staying in budget accommodation, the so-called ‘backpacker hostels’. The trip for them is often part of an extensive odyssey which can involve many countries. Many are keen to get to know the local culture and community, including going ‘off the beaten track’, much more than the bulk of tourists.

The conversation with the German couple took place in Home Hill, a small town on that backpacker circuit in north Queensland. I had set up camp at the free camping spot beside the railway line. I had said ‘G’day’ to the young couple as I went shopping downtown before getting my evening meal. On the way back, I greeted them again, and we started talking. It began with the usual ‘getting-to-know-you’ type questions about where they were from, where they were headed next, and so on. (The time together was to last three and a half hours.)

Interest in dinosaurs

After a short while another pair—this time from Belgium, joined us and I mentioned that I’d shared a talk on dinosaurs in churches in a couple of other towns along that coastal trail.

“Would you be interested in seeing some of the evidence, and the pictures that support it? I can run the laptop on battery and put it on the table right here in the street.” They were interested, all right. Thus began an unforgettable time reviewing the evidence for a young earth. We started with the number of recorded sightings of dinosaurs around the world, and that they must have been around with people—not the picture they’d heard painted in school. Moving on to Noah’s flood and evidence from fossils, recent rocks, Mt St Helens’ new sedimentary layers and gorges and the way the Grand Canyon gives testimony to recent history. Thousands, not millions of years….

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